Winfield Scott
General Winfield Scott
[Image from General Officers of the Civil War]
A favorite topic among Southern poets early in the War was the many failed Yankee attempts to take Richmond, the Confederate capital. The first such failure took place under the nominal control of General Winfield Scott, a professional soldier from Virginia who had made his reputation during the War of 1812 and solidified it in the 1846 war against Mexico. Made general in chief of the Regular Army in 1841, Scott still held titular command when the War Between the States began. At the age of 75, poor health precluded his taking the field (he was so obese that he could no longer ride a horse but had to be transported by carriage); his mind, however, was still sharp, and he devised an overall plan of military action that would eventually prove to have been strategically sound, despite the fact that it was roundly criticized when it was first unveiled.

Irvin McDowell
General Irvin McDowell
[Image from General Officers of the Civil War]

Whatever its relative merits, Scott's plan soon went by the boards when General Irvin McDowell found himself facing Confederate Generals P.G.T. Beauregard, Joseph E. Johnston, and Stonewall Jackson at Manassas. Federal visions of an unimpeded march into Richmond and a swift end to the war dissolved on the battlefield when the Union army was routed and sent scurrying back to the Washington defenses on July 21, 1861. McDowell subsequently lost his command, and Scott finally retired from the service on November 1, 1861.

This poem was first published in The Richmond Whig. It was later collected in The Southern Amaranth, compiled and edited by Sallie A. Brock of Richmond and published as a fundraiser in 1869. In her preface, Brock states "The design of this work was conceived in an individual desire to offer a testimonial of gratitude to the memories of the brave men who perished in the late ineffectual effort for Southern independence; as well as in a wish to render to my Southern sisters some assistance in gathering up the remains of the Confederate Dead, from the numberless battle-fields over which they were scattered, and placing them where the rude plowshare may not upturn their bleaching bones, and where sorrowing friends may at least drop a tear, and lay a flower upon the grass-covered hillocks that mark their resting places."

Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines an amaranth as "an imaginary flower supposed never to fade."

"On to Richmond"

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Last modified 16-April-2001